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SGC confirms new senate chair and discusses student equity, inclusion and belonging

Luca+Maurer%2C+the+executive+director+for+Student+Equity%2C+Inclusion%2C+and+Belonging+in+the+Center+for+Equity%2C+Inclusion%2C+and+Belonging%2C+met+with+the+SGC+to+discuss+the+structure+of+the+center+and+the+efforts+it+is+putting+in+to+create+a+more+welcoming+campus.
Maddy Dombrow
Luca Maurer, the executive director for Student Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in the Center for Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, met with the SGC to discuss the structure of the center and the efforts it is putting in to create a more welcoming campus.

The Ithaca College Student Governance Council met Dec. 4 to confirm a new senate chair and heard from the executive director for Student Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in the Center for Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. 

Sophomore Eleanor Paterson resigned from her position as senate chair before this week’s meeting. Paterson will be studying abroad in Spring 2024 and must pass on her duties as a member of the executive board to an SGC member who gets confirmed to the position.

Sophomores Lili Chalfant, School of Communications senator, and Nikki Sutera, School of Music, Theatre, and Dance senator, presented to the SGC in hopes of becoming the new senate chair. 

Chalfant has served on the SGC since Fall 2022 and said her experience as a residential assistant has been valuable in getting more connected with the community and with constituents. Chalfant said she wants to create a strong leadership team within SGC, where the members can discuss and collaborate more on the creation of bills and amendments. 

“I want to make sure that we all have goals that we would touch base on and work together on to complete,” Chalfant said. 

Chalfant said some of her main goals would be to focus on mental health and student accessibility needs as well as connecting the campus. Chalfant said that being on SGC is not solely for the members to make changes they want but is to help their constituents. 

“It’s about being the voice for people and students and understanding what their needs are and addressing those,” Chalfant said.

Chalfant also said her role in the Organizational Review Committee has given her a good sense of the SGC Constitution and thinks it would benefit her in planning and moving forward with concrete steps when a new bill is approved. 

Sutera has also served on the SGC since Fall 2022 and said she feels confident in the processes of an SGC meeting. Sutera said she had conversations with Paterson about what it means to be the senate chair and feels prepared for the workload. 

“I’m just really thankful for this opportunity because I love you guys a lot and I’m very excited to represent you and represent this body,” Sutera said.

Sutera said her time as the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance senator has been valuable in providing experience managing groups. 

“Because of the [School of Music, Theatre, and Dance] merger, we had to create a new advisory council within the school,” Sutera said. “I took a lot of time with Dean Hogan to create a council that represented all parts of both schools.”

Sutera also serves on the Academic Policy Committee and the Campus Affairs Committee. Sutera said she has helped with policies regarding asynchronous classes, A.I. in the classroom and student advising. 

“Last year, I served on the Academic Policy Committee where I served specifically on policy and last year, we created a policy for asynchronous classes,” Sutera said. “I helped put in a lot of student input on making it equitable for all students in all learning situations.”

The SGC then went into executive session to discuss and vote for Chalfant or Sutera. Sutera was confirmed by the SGC to be the next senate chair.

Luca Maurer, the executive director for Student Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in the Center for Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, met with the SGC to discuss the structure of the center and the efforts it is putting in to create a more welcoming campus. The Center for Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging recently moved to the 2nd Floor of Job Hall across from the Center for Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity. 

Maurer said the center has taken the lead on implementing the Fall 2023 campus climate survey in partnership with Rankin & Associates Consulting, which collects and analyzes climate data from colleges and universities around the nation. Maurer said the survey data serves as an important tool in making the college’s climate more equitable and inclusive. The data will help the center organize and plan new initiatives and programs for the college. Maurer said the consulting agency is still sorting through data from the Fall 2023 survey and would share its findings in Spring 2024. The last campus climate survey was conducted in Fall 2016 and was intended to be conducted again in 2020, but the survey was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When asked about the percentage of students who filled out the campus climate survey compared to the previous time, Maurer did not give an exact number but said it was less than in 2016, when the response rate was 46%. 

However, Maurer said there was more frustration with the college in 2016. 

“The last time we posted this campus climate survey, it was during a period of intense student dissatisfaction with a number of areas on campus,” Maurer said. “The consultants’ thinking and ours is that part of the reason that that number was so high last time was driven by discontent.”

Maurer said the number of students who filled out the survey is still respectable and the data will set a strategy moving forward that will help the center set priorities around equity and inclusion.

Maurer said that with this new data, the college can help create new projects and committees such as the Bias Impact Reporting Form which was created following the survey in Fall 2016. Maurer said the Bias Impact Resource Team reaches out to and provides resources and support for students who file a form. The form is used to provide individuals at the college with a way of accessing resources if they experience or witness a bias incident on campus. The reports help the college when educating and preventing acts of bias.

Maurer said the center is currently hiring for the position of director for Staff Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging at the college and said the candidates recently visited the college and presented to the community. Maurer said the hiring announcement would be made soon, and the new member would be joining in Spring 2024. 

Sophomore Rishabh Sen, vice president of campus affairs, asked Maurer if the center was aware of the current patterns of discrimination facing BIPOC students in performing arts

Maurer said many of the negative experiences that students have been facing are not new to the college and need to be addressed as an institution and in higher education as a whole. Maurer said the center is working behind the scenes with the schools to get at some of the root causes and to find solutions. 

“We are working very specifically on concrete goals and tangible outcomes,” Maurer said. “But until we get to that point where we’re doing a more comprehensive sort of intervention to make these things different, things will stay the same.”

Additionally, Sarah Boniche, associate director of Student Involvement for the Office of Student Engagement and the adviser for the council, announced she would be leaving the college at the end of the week. Boniche said that she will be starting a new position in the residential life office at Binghamton University and that someone else in the Office of Student Engagement would take over as adviser of SGC in Spring 2024. 

Senior Carli McConnell, president of the student body, announced that junior Muhammad Arshad, Class of 2025 senator, sent in his resignation to SGC because of scheduling conflicts. 

The SGC is the sole representative body for the Ithaca College student community. The SGC can be contacted at [email protected].

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